Festival season is upon us and after not having been to a traditional festival since Benicassim 2012 (I don’t really count Summer Sonic or Sonic Mania as they didn’t involve camping!) it was time to rectify that at BBK Live.
Although the idea had been floated around for some time it wasn’t until a random Wednesday night at home on the wine that my housemates and I actually decided to book the tickets. I’m forever surprised at how cheap festivals are outside of the UK and BBK was no exception, with a three day ticket plus camping coming in at a very reasonable €165 plus fees. Certainly beats paying £300 or so for a muddy field at Leeds!
After an unexpectedly heavy night on the Wednesday I arose around 10.30am and quickly stuffed a load of things into a bag ready for a midday meet up in Bilbao. Word of advice: don’t expect a productive morning if your country gets knocked out of the World Cup the night before.
As often seems to be the case these days, BBK is a cashless festival where you top up your wristband either online or at the festival site, so I left my wallet and cards at home and took just €30 in cash. Annoyingly, partly thanks to my hungover state and partly thanks to just being a bit forgetful at the best of times I left my phone charger at home so ended up having to dip into my reserve cash for spare cable. I suppose that’s what it’s there for; emergencies, right?!
Truth be told it was all going a bit too smoothly – charger issues aside – which always makes me suspicious. I’m always on the lookout for some sort of catch but there really didn’t seem to be any. We arrived at San Mames stadium (home of Athletic Bilbao), swapped our tickets for a wristband and that was that!
There was also the option to top up your wristband at San Mames too, which would’ve been handy had I decided to bring my card. Thankfully it was just as easy online.
After a quick bite to eat and a trip to the nearby Mercadona to stock up on vital supplies (beer and water) it was time to head for the bus up to the festival site. Located fairly oddly behind a massive building (blink and you’d miss them), the bus stop was only a 2 minute walk from San Mames. Unfortunately that wasn’t all as by the time we got there the queue was snaking around the building and we ended up waiting about an hour to actually get on the bus. Thank god for the aforementioned supplies!
We arrived at the campsite following a 20 minute or so winding journey up into the hills from the city centre. The first thing that stands out is just how stunning the scenery is around here and it’s often quite easy to take for granted what a beautiful place I live in.
Having got used to not being able to take glass into English festivals it was quite a surprise to arrive at the campsite here and be told by security that there were no problems with the litre bottle of vodka that I had with me. If only I’d known that before carting a big plastic bottle of water around with me all day as a decoy!
Upon arrival we were greeted by a bunch of people handing out free cans of Red Bull, which I imagine was probably the most legal type of fuel consumed at the festival all weekend. As I had my hands full the promo girl proceeded to pour a full can into my mouth from a height which left me with a sticky face and t-shirt and a rank taste in my mouth. Good start.
Luckily a friend had arrived early and commandeered a spot for our entire group so there was none of the usual hassle of wandering around aimlessly looking for somewhere to pitch up. Thankfully there seemed to be very few bad spots in the campsite and we ended up on something of a grassy ledge about five minutes away from the main entrance, toilets (but that’s what fields are for, right?) and everything else.
Speaking of ‘everything else’, there really wasn’t a great deal on the campsite compared to what I’d expected. Maybe I’ve been spoilt in the past.
In terms of food, your choices were a ‘tex mex’ style stand, one for hot dogs and chips and for the hipsters among us, a cereal bar. Depending on the time of the day the queues can vary from non-existent to absolutely insane. I ended up spending about an hour waiting in the tex mex line for the plate pictured above which set me back a cool €10.
In addition to these stands there was a pop-up Carrefour supermarket just outside the campsite which was, just like everything else, cashless. As expected, everything was marked-up in terms of price so a trip to a city centre supermarket before arriving is definitely worthwhile. For context, a pack of five Calippo ice lollies would’ve set you back €5 in the Carrefour. Scandalous!
Thankfully, I came well prepared with enough warm beer and tins of meatballs to keep me satisfied. In fact, when the meatballs were warmed after two days in the sun they almost passed as edible.
My only real complaint about the campsite is that it’s a good half hour walk from the actual festival. Although the fairly regular buses do help, depending on what time you want to go there and back it may actually be quicker to walk! Those 4am queues are the stuff of nightmares. More on that in the next post.
That’s just about it for the practical stuff; next up: the music itself!